(Bloomberg) -- Frank Boulben withdrew from the running to become the next chief executive officer of Orange SA, leaving Christel Heydemann as the main contender to run France’s biggest telecommunications company.
Boulben, chief revenue officer of Verizon Communications Inc., confirmed the withdrawal of his bid in an email to Bloomberg News. He sent a letter to Orange’s board of directors relaying his decision, Le Figaro reported previously, without saying how it got the information.
A spokesman for Orange declined to comment.
The French state controls about 23% of Orange, partly via Bpifrance, and Heydemann received support for her bid from Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. She’s currently executive vice-president for Europe at Paris-based Schneider Electric SE.
Ramon Fernandez, Orange’s chief financial officer since 2016, is the only other declared candidate for the top job.
Read more: Orange CEO Race Has Narrowed to a Shortlist of Three Candidates
An engineer and graduate from the Ecole Polytechnique, Heydemann, 47, started her career at the Boston Consulting Group before joining Alcatel in 1999. She held senior positions during the merger with Lucent, and became a member of Alcatel-Lucent France in 2008.
In 2014, she joined Schneider Electric, where she was appointed to the group’s executive committee in 2017. That same year, she was also named an independent director on Orange’s board. If elected, Heydemann would become Orange’s first-ever female CEO.
The board is expected to make a decision on Jan. 28, and may ask Stephane Richard to remain interim CEO until his successor joins, according to Le Figaro.
Orange, which has started working with headhunting firm Spencer Stuart to appoint a chairman, has a shortlist of five or six candidates, according to Le Journal du Dimanche, which didn’t say how it got the information.
(Updates with context throughout.)
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